Meet Ruby, a dog who can play poker, shoot hoops and play piano
If you think dogs playing poker is just the name of an oil painting, trainer Rick Caran has a couple of canines he’d like you to meet.
Caran, 68, is the man behind Ruby, a three-pound Yorkie who holds the title of “the world’s only poker-playing dog.”
The tiny pup travels with Caran around the world, demonstrating her talents to rapt audiences at conferences, birthday parties and luncheons.
She’s even defended her title against international opponents: A Japanese game show, “Pochi-Tama,” sent over a well-trained Golden retriever to try to play against Ruby.
“Ruby played perfectly,” Caran beamed. “Their dog ripped up the cards and then ripped up the money.”
To be fair, the itty-bitty Ruby isn’t out to make a payday. The game she plays is called “No Peek” Poker, a version that doesn’t require much more than flipping cards and laying down cash at the proper times.
But when Ruby demonstrated her talents for the Daily News at the Halo City Tails pop-up store in Manhattan, she still had all the panache of a seasoned Vegas showman.
The card-playing trick all began with Jilli, another Yorkie that Caran found on the street near his Huntington, Long Island home nine years ago.
“I didn’t even know what a Yorkie was at the time,” Caran said. But soon the pooch became part of the family and Caran realized that she had a knack for tricks.
“I started training dogs when I was 8 years old, just for fun,” Caran said. “I still train like an 8-year-old.”
By that, Caran means that he’s less focused on discipline than having fun. So soon, using little bits of cheese as treats, he had taught Jilli how to do a range of little moves. And then a friend asked if she could do any card tricks.
“The rest was history,” Caran smiled.
Jilli took her act across the world, even playing Kelly Ripa and Bettle Midler on an episode of “Live with Regis and Kelly.” When Jilli picked up the single dollar bills with her teeth, the stars followed suit.
At 16, Jilli is going blind and deaf, and has retired from the show circuit. She passed on her poker-playing title to Ruby, who proudly plays in front of crowds of all sorts. Her companion Spidey, a sleepy-looking white Chihuahua, often accompanies her to demonstrate his own skills.
“Spidey plays the piano really well,” Caran said. “He also bowls.”
Together, the team hopes to convince more families to adopt rescue dogs. Their show at City Tails was in support of the organization, a pet food company co-owned by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres that aims to help pets in need.
While not every dog may be ready for the high-stakes casino tables, Caran insists that any dog can be taught something. And, he notes, that familiar adage is wrong:
“You can teach an old dog new tricks,” he smiled.
~ Courtesy of The Daily Mail